Maryann Wolfe 
Member since Dec 7, 2017


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Re: “The Wrong Path?

I find it urgent to respond to the 11/27 post by Earl Marty Price, whose text is overwhelmingly filled with mistruths and ad feminem attacks that are designed to eviscerate a substantial corpus of excellent teaching and my efforts to promote the best for Oakland Tech and its students. The plan of Mr. Prices letter is to represent me as a teacher who turned away talented students because of race; he signaled falsely my unwillingness to go the extra mile in order to accept more than the 32 maximum per class (some years I had between 43-45); and he devalued the seriousness of Socratic classroom teaching as a scenario in which conversation among students and teacher is seen by Price as the easy route that takes the place of lesson preparation and clear instruction; finally Price put in circulation that I was unwilling to cooperate with school initiatives to make Paideia an academy as per OUSD plans. The host of slurs that insinuates my so-called racist approach to students at Tech, along with Mr. Prices provocative attempt to undermine the unity among women faculty (by which he tries to claim that I was the uncooperative teacher while the other women in Paideia were splendid examples of hard-working instructors) are quite frankly scandalous. In the age of Trump and Harvey Weinstein, now we have Price who can attempt publicly to sow divisiveness among women who have taught together for over twenty-five years.
Mr. Price's brief tenure at Tech prevents him from knowing the details. First, from 1986-2000 (before Price worked at Tech), most Tech and Paideia students were African American; in fact, Tech only recently became a school of 29% African American and from 22-25% of each of the following groups: Caucasian, Asian-American, and Latino. In the last few years, the racial makeup of each year's Paideia senior classes varied, so some years Paideias makeup was 10%, sometimes 20% and at other times 30% African American. In addition, and contrary to the profile of me that suggests practices of racial exclusion, I led efforts through summer bridge programs to increase the participation rates of African-American students (these efforts later proved unsustainable because district money was pulled). Last spring, efforts to have former Paideia minority graduates recruit students of color among 9th graders were forbidden by the administration. I have never turned down students who approached me with the request to enroll in my senior Paideia classes! Our goal was never to make Paideia a white program; if we wanted to do that, we wouldnt have committed ourselves to teaching in Oakland in the first place.
Second, Paideia was never given the opportunity to become an academy. By California and Oakland guidelines for academies or pathways, a "school to work" concept prevails; since Paideia doesn't fit this paradigm (with its program in history, English, government, and political theory), Paideia teachers were never given any real chances let alone "three opportunities," as Price suggests, to become an academy. Last school year, we were, however, invited by Co-principal Diaz to restructure our program; we decided to focus on public policy and law in order to meet the pathway model. We submitted a plan to this effect, which was subsequently rejected without any opportunity for discussion.
Third, in response to the idea that Socratic method was the sine qua non for keeping the teaching faculty to a limited group, let me remind Price of our teacher training efforts. In addition to preparing student teachers, I also gave my entire government curriculum to two Tech teachers so that they could teach AP Government. I coached one teacher (of color) on a daily basis, giving up my conference period every day for a semester and spending another year meeting weekly with that teacher to assist in pedagogy and curriculum development. Other Paideia teachers trained several current teachers now on staff and shared curriculum with U.S. and World history teachers, as well.
Fourth, let me return to a gender issue here. In Prices letter, there is not only an unsubtle attempt to insinuate divisiveness among the women colleagues, but also a way to diminish my observations of the failings of Tech by ascribing them to the sphere of a damaged ego or hurt feelings as he describes it. This is not about sentimentality of the weak and feeble, but about the urgency to identify the collapse of reason in a once better organized school and to name the ways in which the system has failed to meet its obligations to students across racial and ethnic lines.
Fifth, as for Prices phony attacks on former students who were interviewed by The Oakland Magazine, how dare he minimize their experiences? More recent grads have expressed immense gratitude for the Paideia Program and chimed in with Daniel Hutchinson and Kulwa Apara though The Oakland Magazine, which could not include more of their interviewees, so Price is way off base here.
Sixth, regarding my resignation, my announcement to the co-principals came in early July, not two weeks before school started as Price claims in his letter. And this, as captured in the Express article as well as The Oakland Magazine, was difficult to formulate (again, please cast aside questions of hurt feelings); this was about the realities of continuing in a program that was being dismantled on a regular basis. Price can continue with the name-calling in this venue and in social media, but the hundreds of minority students who went on to successful careers will and have supplied another narrative about my professionalism, my work in the classroom, and my unhesitant donation of time and labor to the good interests of the school.
Finally, Paideia teachers have always wanted to give students, no matter what race or sexual identification, a rigorous academic program in the social sciences and humanities because we wanted them to be critical thinkers, thoughtful writers, and civically engaged Americans. We wanted to graduate students who would be prepared to succeed in college and pursue whatever career interests they chose. We chose a path, but we insisted upon more than school-to-work. We also remained steadfast in demanding high standards; why should students of color be given lower standards, as Price suggested?
Maryann Wolfe

Posted by Maryann Wolfe on 12/07/2017 at 10:10 AM

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